t a time of existential crisis, I interned for the San Francisco Bay Guardian. (That was me that created the “Best Food Truck” category in the Best of the Bay Awards. The first: the creme brulee cart! – who, incidentally, also catered the SFBG’s 35th annual BOTB party.) Tomorrow, The SFBG publishes its last print issue in nearly fifty years of weekly printing.
I am stunned that they are closing – not shocked in the sense that I don’t get how tough it is for independent media (and of all things, physical, print-based publishing) to survive these days, but in the sense that the SFBG has been such a cultural institution for the Bay. It was regularly heralded as an exemplary alternative weekly, recognized across the nation. It’s like if the Village Voice shut down.
This makes me sad.
The San Francisco Bay Guardian, a leading voice for progressive San Francisco since 1966, has stopped publishing. The San Francisco Media Company, which has published the Guardian since 2012, will publish the final issue on Wednesday, October 15th, 2014.
As a company, we are proud of the SF Bay Guardian’s legacy as a community watchdog, a publication with stellar reporting and its passion to push for a better city. It gave a voice to many in the city who might have been otherwise shut out of the corridors of power, kept countless city leaders honest and inspired a new breed of journalism across the nation.
We say good-bye to a member of our media family and to an institution that has been a vital advocate for its vision for San Francisco for nearly half a century. The Guardian leaves San Francisco a better city for the role it has played in shaping it these last decades.
–sfbg.com, October 14, 2014
It’s possible that the SFBG could have continued as a purely digital source, but that would have been a pivot completely antithetical to how it was founded. A free rag meant it could have been accessed by anyone, not just hipsters with smartphones. (Also, have you seen what become of Radar after it stopped publishing??) The SFBG would happily promote San Francisco’s subcultures. The SFBG could dually serve as a seat cover after you finished reading it. The SFBG would not have pumped out BuzzFeed listicles. The SFBG would not develop an interactive ereader experience. But the SFBG could not compete with advertisers flocking to other forms of media. The SFBG could not subsist in its decidedly analog model.
I haven’t been connected to the SFBG in years, and I have no inside knowledge of what led to the SFBG’s final issue, or the choices that were considered in keeping the paper going. All my thoughts are conjecture, conjecture from the former intern who openly told the storied Editor in Chief Bruce Brugmann that she didn’t read physical newspapers and now almost exclusively works in tech startups. My hypotheses are distant and high level, but in many ways they are accurate views from across the table.
A few months ago I recycled every issue of the SFBG that I didn’t contribute to. Until then, twenty-something vanity made me cling to each copy that had my name in its masthead, but in reality my writing only appeared in a couple of print issues. (Most of my articles were produced for the culture blog, ironically.) So now I’ve got a couple yellowed issues where I can hold my words in my hand, probably the last SFBGs I will ever possess unless I’m able to locate a copy tomorrow. It’s very odd to think your work isn’t archived somewhere: it ain’t backed up, you can’t restore it, there’s no permalink, and there’s no way to read it again.
It’s like there’s no proof that this museum existed.
My career may be more SnapChat than column inches, but it smarts all the same. Newspapers may be the original “ephemeral” media. (After sand mandalas, of course.)